Reading the recent Towards Maturity report on the state of learning in organizations, it’s clear that we all need to do more to connect the dots between learning and work.
Employees are playing their part – seeking out help and support when they need it. But is it always the right stuff? And are L&D teams doing enough to help close the gaps?
The guerilla in the room
The vast majority of organizations want to do more to make learning more available and relevant to daily tasks: 93% want to integrate learning and work, 95% want to respond faster to the speed of business.
But L&D still seems stuck in another time: 56% of formal learning is still delivered face-to-face only, and only 19% of budget goes on technologies.
And if we think the answer is to make better courses, your learners have news for you: that’s not what they want. 60% find out more through their own research than they do through formal courses. So more of those is probably not the answer.
So what’s an L&D professional to do? Changing the strategy and culture takes time. But we can also take a guerilla approach – try things and see what works, and adjust as you go.
Here are 10 practical steps you can take to breath some new life into your learning. They don’t require dramatic shifts in your strategy or significant investments in new tools or platforms. They just need someone to get it started.
10 ways to work learning into the workflow
1. Make it shorter
The oldest gag in the writer’s joke book, from Blaise Pascal: “I have written a longer letter because I didn’t have the time to make it shorter”. If you want to embed learning in the workflow, it needs to be a sharp, focused piece of support. Think 5 minutes or less. Microlearning is the term of the hour (well, decidedly not the hour, if you follow…)
Tip: Don’t think course. Think short, focused interventions, or just simple embed links to relevant resources. It can be a single page, like this example.
2. Clear out the clutter
If 60% of learners are finding more value in external content than in internal courses, is it time for a winter de-clutter of the catalogue? Keep your LMS or course lists to the minimum. Nobody will miss them – and if they beg for them back, you can always return them by popular demand.
Tip: Strip back courses that have low levels of engagement and completion. Look to rearrange what’s left, by need.
3. Help people find what they want
Keeping with this theme, over 70% of learners say they curate content for their own purposes – but 1 in 4 can’t find what they’re looking for. IDC estimated that knowledge workers spend 9.8 hours a week looking for information. If they can’t find it, that’s a lot of wasted time. L&D can help with curation by providing tips and tools to help people filter content that helps with professional goals. But only 14% of organizations have an approach to curation in place. Learners are left to their own devices.
Tip: Talk to your learners about the sources of information that they want to find, and use tools to organize and surface that content for them. They’ll spend less time searching and more time finding.
4. Spark a conversation
Whether you have a full blown Social Enterprise Network, or a simple discussion forum or chat functionality, you face the same challenge: What should we talk about? Many of these initiatives fail to ignite because there’s nothing to drive the conversation. Can you do more to bring them into the workflow by finding recent, relevant content and posing a question, for example: Look what our competitors are doing. Is that a risk or opportunity for us?
Tip: Find relevant content for your sector or industry through curation tools. Post it where people will see it in your social channels and encourage a debate.
5. Keep it alive
Knowledge deteriorates rapidly if it’s not applied. Ebbinghaus showed this with his forgetting curve. You know it when you try your schoolroom French in conversation for the first time in 20 years. Serving up short regular reminders helps to keep us sharp. Go one better, and serve up regular challenges to build deepening competence over time AKA spaced practice.
Tip: Short quizzes, daily reminders and curated segments of short content can work well. For example, if you’re supporting team managers, could you share one tip a day on how to manage teams effectively? Or create a competitive social poll that makes people vote on the action they think is right. There’s plenty of content out there to support this. And it doesn’t have to cost anything…
6. Use free stuff
Anders Pink can help you organize and share freely available content.
There’s a lot of content available at zero charge. The Towards Maturity report estimates that 64% of top organizations are using freely available content such as TED talks and YouTube videos. Quality publishers on business and management like McKinsey, HBR offer free (or tiered) access to their content. Here’s an example of curated content on HR and Learning from a select set of resources.
Tip: Organize and curate this content, and build a plan to use relevant content to reinforce and support learning in the workflow. Use channels where people already hang out – that might be email, Slack, your Intranet – you’ll know where’s best.
7. Listen and respond
All of these techniques are simple to trial. But before you go large with any of them, the ubertip is: watch what works, listen to learners and respond. Try some of these techniques as part of your next learning solution and ask for feedback.
Tip: In marketing you’d do an A/B test, and see how different audiences respond to different approaches and mixes. You may not have that luxury, but you can ask for feedback, either through surveys, polls or small groups. Ask people what formats work for them, and do more of what works.
8. Be the best answer
Lee Odden: if you want to attract and engage an audience, Be the Best Answer to whatever questions they care about. The best answer in a learning context is the one that addresses the “how do I” question at the point of need. The lowly FAQ can make a glorious return as part of a set of workflow focused resources.
Tip: Examine the workflow of your audiences. Identify where they need the most support – is it on specific tasks within a system or process? For example, do your sales teams need support on presenting? When and where is the best place to provide that? Could you provide it in their CRM, when their prospects reach a presentation stage? Make your learning resources the best answer at the right moment and you become a crucial part of the workflow.
9. Further reading, revisited
Usually at the end of any course, there’s a list of further resources and reading. All good, but who’s keeping that list up to date. If it’s inside a course that was created six months ago, there’s a good chance that list is out of date. That’s part of what makes courses limiting. Instead of manually creating that list, could you automate that list?
Tip: Use filters to automate the filtering and maintenance of further reading and related content, so it’s constantly refreshed. You save time, your learners stay informed.
10. Get teams to help you crowd source the content
Most of us work in teams, and we work smarter when we’re tapping into the collective intelligence of our teams. Could you share a range of publicly available content from a range of sources, and ask your teams – what’s the most valuable and relevant to them?
Tip: Use methods inside your existing tools to let people like, up vote, or rate content that you’ve provided, or run polls or surveys. Use data analytics or other insights to steer you towards the type, length and format of resources that will work best for your audiences.
None of these is the single flying leap to bringing your learning closer to the workflow. But each of them is a step towards more availability, relevance and practical application of the content you work so hard to create, commission or curate. See more best practice tips here.
Give it the best chance to get used by trying these tips. What’s there to lose?
Looking at building a new digital learning strategy? You can download your step-by-step guide to developing a successful digital learning strategy.